The Madras High Court today ordered state Minister for Milk and Dairy Development Rajendra Balaji to give it the names of adulterated milk producers with proof, while barring him from making disparaging remarks against private milk producers in general.
Justice C V Kartikeyan passed the interim order on civil suits filed by three dairy and milk manufacturing companies, Hatsun Agro Product Limited, Dodla Dairy Limited and Vijay Dairy and Farm Products Private Limited.
“I would modify the relief sought for by the applicants by stating that the respondent minister should not issue any disparaging press statements or address reporters indirectly or directly disparaging privately manufactured dairy products or milk products,” the judge said.
He said if there was substantial material to prove adulteration, the minister should specify the name of the private company which indulged in it and also produce necessary documents to substantiate his charge.
“This would allay the fear among the general public. Damaging the reputation and goodwill of private manufacturers in general cannot be permitted. This direction would ensure that the minister makes statements which are substantiated and which can also be rebutted by the affected companies which may or may not include the applicants herein.”
The firms had approached the Madras High Court to direct the minister to pay Rs one crore each as damages for charging them with indulging in adulterating milk with noxious chemicals, including formaldehyde.
They had also sought to restrain the minister from making any statement or remark and insinuation directly disparaging the plaintiff’s milk or milk products prepared and marketed by them, to the media.
Alleging that the Minister was making disparaging statements of adulteration of milk and milk products made and marketed by private companies, they submitted that his remarks were meant to create a sense of fear and panic in the minds of consumers, a sense of disgust and revulsion on milk and milk products manufactured by private dairies as a whole and their product in particular.
The petitioner companies while mentioning the statement by the Central Laboratories, said they had not received any test samples from Tamil Nadu government.
The companies said it was relevant to note that the minister claimed to have sent milk samples to various lab, which, in fact, later turned out to be a false statement. He had alleged that private companies were influencing lab not to accept samples.
“This fear campaign of the minister stood exposed when the Central Lab at Pune admitted it had not received any sample from Tamil Nadu in the recent past,” they said.
The petitioners submitted that they were yet to assess the exact business loss caused due to the campaign of the minister’s ‘baseless’ statements, and added that his accusations have had and continue to have a grave impact on their products and credibility.
The judge, after recording the submissions of the counsel, issued notice to the minister returnable by July 28 and expressed the hope that he would strictly adhere to the observations made above till that date.
Source: Outlook India